A Writer’s Symphony



When next you visit the seaside, take a seat upon the soft grainy shore, close your eyes and pay close attention to the music of the waves. In all its raw and natural beauty, the sea produces a pure and timeless music that lulls and calms while still creating the intrinsic drama of nature at its finest.


A small wave kisses the shore, tentative and light – the bloom of a butterfly’s kiss. A second follows, stronger, more courageous, reaching salty fingers further up the sandy beach, then retreating. A teasing, sensual liquid dance. A third follows, thrusting, stronger, more urgent as it crashes, white-flecked upon the shore spitting foam and grasping at the grains for purchase. It too retreats unsuccesffully. A soft roar pulls your eyes to the ocean. A wave crests out at sea, as if at last hearing the plight of the smaller, weaker waves. It rolls in, gathering its strength, tumbling into itself, rising higher, tipped with seafoam as if bearing a brace of pure white weapons. It races in, overtaking the tiny wavelets ripping them apart in its wake. It thrusts onto the sand, higher, further than any of its liquid siblings. The roar that grips your heart and tenses your muscles ends in a crashing sputtering splash, before it too inevitably retreats, swallowing the smaller waves as it leaves, satisfied it had revealed its prowess.


Every scene should be like these cresting waves on the seashore. A little tentative dance leading up to a crescendo of emotion, and then satisfaction and resolution. The reader must move upon these waves, be taken for this ride unconscious of the intention of the writer. The reader must be transported emotionally to experience the push and pull of your words as you build on their emotional investment, feeding it until you have them wrapped within the skeins of the world you have woven around them as they read. Some writers are blessed with the ability to unconsciously create such moving, poetic prose. Other writers learn the art. Either way the result is the same. A reader transported into the world you have built within your novel, to meet the characters and live the experience of your words.


How does a writer create such scenes? How do you structure your sentences, paragraphs and chapters to ensure you have this same lyrical movement within them?


Sentence length is the first place to begin. Short sentences increase dramatic effect, pulling the reader in with bated breath. Longer sentences allow the emotional attachment to ebb, drawing the reader away to take a breath, allowing the supsense to heighten.


Within the sentence again is word length, similar to sentence length in intention to either draw the reader in or allow them to relax and come back for more. Using both these techniques with words and sentences creates an endless possibility in terms of drawing emotion from the reader because remember both you and your reader have made a commitment to each other- the writer agrees to weave the spell and the reader agrees to be spellbound.


With sentences, their construction also contracts or releases tension. Sentences beginnings and endings, the rise and fall as the sentence is read is vital to the reader. Remember that even silent readers ‘hear’ the rise and fall. Not paying attention to the music of your words results in a disjointed feel to the writing- like trying to sing Somewhere over the Rainbow to the music from the Bohemian Rhapsody.


Essentially every scene and every chapter also includes rising action, climax and denoument. The result is a suspenseful tale throughout, a novel that grips the reader chapter by chapter, until they are surprised when they read the words ‘The End’.


Do you write to the music in your head? Do you follow a writing plan or does your lyrical prose come naturally? Do you believe that the musicality of your writing matters at all?


28 thoughts on “A Writer’s Symphony

  1. That was a really pretty discription of waves. I personally don’t have a plan, though I do have a loose story outline. Not sure how lyrical my writing is though. I have never really focused on lyrical lines.

    1. Thank you Sonia,
      I was talking to my crit partner and started thinking about how I write in terms of the movement of my sentences which ultimatley let to this post. I am eager to learn they way other writes work. I find reading the work aloud as if you were telling the story usually confirms it. Truthfully I have never thought about it until yesterday which is when I re-read some of my work and found it does have a certain poetry and motion to it. 🙂
      Thanks for commenting.

      1. Reading out loud always helps. The way I write is through the POV character and see if it fits the POV character impressions.

      2. Hi Sonia
        the sound and rhythm of the words do influence the reader, I think. And I do think the lyricism of a piece of writing depends entirely on the voice your write in and also on the POV character. Hard to swallow when a vile murderer likens the sound his victim’s blood makes when it hits the floor to the pitter patter of raindrops… unless he is totally loopy and then that’s another story entirely, isn’t it??

  2. Hi CP…
    Great post to follow on from our discussion..
    Beautiful imagery.
    Well you know how I write..I think first as a poet. I also tend to pick a theme music that matches the voice of my story and then literally match my sentence structure to that rhythm.
    I also always read everything aloud to myself so that I can hear whether I have hit the right tempo or no. I also think carefully about the where I place the punctuation – the correct punctuation can be your best friend but the incorrect punctuation will jar against your ears like a piano that is out of tune.

  3. I loved your description of the waves, and the comparison to the movement of a scene. I don’t know if I try to write lyrically. When I’m writing fiction, I’m listening more to the characters’ voices and making sure they sound true. But it’s an interesting question.

    Meanwhile, thanks for your comment on my Galicia posts. I’ll be posting more, so do visit again.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      I have read your last post and in my humble opinion I do see poetry in your writing. Its the way you described Galicia that appealed to me.
      I think I am following your blog so I will see you there soon 🙂

  4. Love the waves description, Tee 🙂 I’ve been wanting to get to the beach here, but It’s just too cold. soon! I just want to sit there with my writing journal and dream 🙂

    great post,

    1. Hi Denise
      I think I used the sea as my subject particularly because of my intense love for the sea. I always loved sitting at the beach and listening to the waves. That’s South African beaches for you…. And the upside is that winter is never too cold for sitting on the shore and admiting natures beauty.
      thanks XX

  5. Nice prose! I love the sea too. My WIP is set partly in Coney Island, and I have a few scenes on the boardwalk too. Yes, poetic prose is a plus, as well as the need to vary sentences and use all of the senses to evoke a truly 3D world.

    1. Thanks Catherine,
      I attended a conference where Christoper Vogler was the keynote speaker and he spoke about water as being something of a writers muse. I write better when it rains too.

    1. Hey Kelly- hope you had a great break 🙂
      Don’t think I can ever get tired of the beach – my only preference is that it must have REAL waves…. And the sea was the closest likeness I could think of to compare to the movement of writing both in calm and in drama….

  6. This was beautiful!! And very insightful, as well. I hope you will come and visit my website and blog sometime! I will be sure to come back as a regular reader.

    I build my scenes through dialogue first, and then description. Description is very hard for me, but I do the best I can.

    1. Thank you Heather, I will check out your blog too
      Guess as writers we are like the lines on our palms, similar from a distance but so utterly unique when you look closely

  7. I posted late last night (U.S. Pacific Time)so I’m trying again,I appear to be having a problem with posts vanishing.

    I, too, found your writing to be lyrical as your waves found the shoreline. Comparing them to the structure of sentences and paragraphs – pure inspiration. Thank You, Tee.

    Many Blessings,

    1. Thank you dear Penny
      I am so glad you liked it. I must say that such positivity and support from the writing community is truly inspirational. Have also nervously added a poetry page to my blog to upload certain poems I wish to share.
      Hugs Tee

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